Platform: Nintendo NES
Controller: Default of the console.
It’s the year 1987, and the videogames locals are starting to get more NES games instead of Atari 2600. The mixing of games in english, and others in japanese, really put to test the ability to play the game without reading any kind of instructions. Then, in one of those locals, appear a boxing videogame, where the videoplayer could fight against different and colorful fighters. These fighters showed different techniques, and probably the most intriguing feature: the videoplayer used a notoriously smaller fighter than the rivals.
Yes, Punch-Out for the NES arrived to my hometown (the arcade port was known, and really popular in a legendary arcade local in a nearby city), becoming an instant hit. Actually, many of my friends and I were regular costumers at the arcade, and slowly began a race to see which one was skillful enough to face the champion Mike Tyson. It’s worthy mentioning that Mike Tyson was the world’s heavyweight undisputed champion, and a true living legend.
The videogamer controls Little Mac a boxer notoriously smaller than its rivals, so smaller that if it wants to hit their faces, it has to jump. The perspective, just like the original arcade game, is from behind the protagonist, but in this game, you see him in full size.
Controlling Little Mac is relatively easy: with a button Mac hits a bit weaker and faster hit with the left; while using the other button, throws a bit stronger and weaker one. With the cross up, the punches go to the head, while not pointing, throws them to the belly (of course, to Mac both zones are located way up to him). Moving left or right allows Mac to avoid punches thrown at him. Pressing down, it blocks the punches, although with some rivals this tactic is useless.
A way for Little Mac to leverage the fights is using the Uppercut (which shows him ducking and then jumping to hit) but this punch is only available collecting up to three stars. The stars are obtained when hitting the rival at certain times during the fight. That particular moment varies from fighter to fighter. Ussualy the Uppercut is used to knockout the rival, but it’s also useful to pummel the rival until knocking him out. Every punch connected add points to the score, which can be useful to win a match by decision. Also, Mac has a heart counter that decreases whenever Mac fails to connect a punch, or is hit. When that counter reaches zero, Mac “gets tired” and can only avoid punches, not able to hit. After a certain amount of punches missed, the heart counter raises a bit, just enough to resume the fight.
The match is over when a fighter falls, and stays down, after a count of 10, or if in the same round is sent to the mat 3 times (Known in boxing as TKO). The fights are up to 3 rounds. A common strategy used is if at the end of the first round the rival has very low energy, not hitting it, and wait to look for a TKO in the following round.
The rivals come from different countries, and are really colorful.
|Glass Joe. Born in France, letting him him is an outstandish fact. Great to getting the feel of the game, and the schema. He was also the first fighter in the Arcade original game.|
|Von Kaiser. Coming from the then West Germany, the difficult goes slightly up facing this dude. With this boxer it’s really important to first hit left, then right, repeat. The german won’t get out of tha loop until sent to the mat.|
|Piston Honda. Coming from Japan, first boxer with a special movement and when he tries to do it, you can knock him out. But if you miss that attempt, he can hit you pretty hard. Not difficult to beat, and his eyes indicate when he’s gonna punch. He is also the first boxer who appears in another fight, he raises his level, but just a bit.|
|Don Flamenco. Coming from Spain, his entrance with the Overture of the opera Carmen of Bizet, and with a rose in his mouth he sure knows how to make an entrance. But apparently not boxing, do you remember the method to beat Von Kaiser? Just the same here, even better. But he also is the third fighter you fight twice, and by then, he sure is a lot harder to beat. His strategy is tire the player, blocking or avoiding your punches. I think Floyd Mayweather Jr. xeroxed his strategy from this guy, because losing to Don Flamenco by decision is far common.|
|King Hippo. Coming from the ficticious Hippo Island. One of the few boxers I was not able to get an star from him. His punches, if he can hit you, can demolish you. The trick here is hitting his mouth, and then barrage his belly with quick punches. He falls one time, and never gets up. Understable, considering his really big belly.|
|Great Tiger. Coming from India, with turban included in the package. Quite easy to beat, but you must be careful with his special move. He does it first at the end of the first round, and can be quite devastating if you are caught unprepared. Basically he starts spinning through the ring, and it you can avoid 5 consecutive times he gets dizzy and be knocked out with one punch. But if he gets you one, the avoid counter resets. The jewel in the turban shines when he is going to throw a punch. Appeared first in the arcade Super PunchOut.|
|Bald Bull. Coming from Turkey. The first real challenge in the game. The first time you hace him, you can get taste his famous “Bull Charge” that can knock you out with one hit. However, if you hit him at the belly at the right time when executing the move, he’s the one for the count. The second time you face him, it’s impossible to knock him out unless hitting him with an uppercut or while doing the “Bull Charge”. Probably the most known character of the game, he has appeared in the sequel for Super Nintendo and other arcades like Arm Wrestling.|
|Soda Popinski. Coming from the, by then, USSR. His style is different from other fighters and be quite disorienting at first. He already appeared in the arcade Super Punch-Out with the name Vodka Drunkenski, but probablye Nintendo wanted to remove every reference to alcohol. However his taunts between rounds undoubtely speak of licquor.|
|Mr. Sandman. Coming from the USA. Really hard to beat, because you have to use a strategy like the one to beat King Hippo. First hit to the head, then others to the belly. His special move are three consecutive uppercuts that will send you for the count when hit. In the bright side, if you completely evade them, it’s payback time. The final boss in the original Arcade game. Probably a homage to either Joe Frazier or Mohammed Alí.|
|Super Macho Man. Coming from USA. His cyclone punches are quite hard to avoid at first, but for some reason, I was able to beat him easier than beating Sandman. The final boss in both the Super Punch Out arcade, and the prototype sold in Japan.|
|Mike Tyson. Coming from USA. The fight against Tyson, just like one in the real life, could not get pass the first round. Because he can send you to the mat in the first round, with one punch. Well, with any punch during the first half of the first round. If you managed to survive that barrage, he’ll fell generous and with a blink of an eye telling you with which arm is going to punch. Not really of big help, because the punches are really quick. Mike Tyson is considered one of the most fearful and intimidating final bosses in the history of videogames.|
The fighters are grouped in three circuits (Minor, Major and World), being part of the fun in finding which fighter appears in which circuit. I can tell you there are 12 fights to conquer the World Circuit championship, before facing Tyson.
Actually, this game is a port from the Arcade games Punch-Out and Super Punch-Out, also developed by Nintendo.
In some cases, when the license to use the name of an association or an athlete expires, this license is not renewed. This was the case. When the license expired, Nintendo did not renew it, so a new version was made, and Tyson was changed for a generic “Mr. Dream”, which some people find it based on Rocky Marciano, and others in Rocky Balboa. The game was still the same, but facing “Mr. Dream” was not as rewarding as facing Tyson.
Eventually there was developed a sequel for the Super NES called Super Punch-Out while being a good game, was not as accepted as this one. Years later there was an almost direct port for the Nintendo Wii.
Fantastic videogame, one of my all-time favorites. However, the game would be considered highly politically incorrect in these times because of the stereotypes: The drunken russian, cocky spaniard, cheerful and useless french, fat guy from South Pacific and indian mage. However, these characters were really charismatic, something not found in the sequel. It was a hard mission to compete against the successful Arcade original game, but it was superior. Maybe, just maybe, the sensation of facing up 11 Goliaths is part of the charm.
This videogame brings me back really wonderful memories from my childhood in my hometown. I don’t know how many allowance were spent training to fight Mike Tyson, but I was the first one to do it, and was quite satisfactory. Even if that fight didn’t last 30 seconds…
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.